Humberto Hernández: “The Spanish of the Canary Islands is less and less stigmatized”

Isn’t it a bit simple to want to identify the canary with the term ‘mullallo’?

Yes it is. In all the dialects there are peculiarities that identify them and in the Canary one of these characteristics, in addition to the seseo or the aspiration of the s, is the articulation that we have of the ch, which to the ears of a foreigner seems like a ll … The point of articulation of our ch is somewhat more backward than that of the Castilian ch, but we Canaries know how to distinguish a line from a streak.

But so much reiteration is still somewhat tiresome.

I do not think it is a matter of glotophobia, xenophobia or linguistic racism, rather it is a grace that should not be given too much importance. In any case, it doesn’t hurt that they find out that here we don’t say mullallo, here we say boy.

That is still a symptom of ignorance of language travel between the Canary Islands and America, right?

That is one of the issues that must be claimed in language teaching because Spanish is still a set of dialects, specifically eight major dialects (five in American Spanish and three in European Spanish: Castilian, Andalusian and the canary), which are just as valid and correct. In this sense, it must be understood that Spanish is not a modality that is located in the center-north of the peninsula. To the little ones in the classrooms and to the older ones with other means it is necessary to make them understand that there are no inferior dialects and superior dialects … The Spanish of the Canary Islands is less and less stigmatized. Honestly, I think he is well regarded today.

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear that “in the Canary Islands people speak badly”?

(laughs) … A person who is capable of making a comment of this type ignores the reality of the language and, in order not to think badly, I prefer to believe that it is a subjective assessment with which I certainly do not agree. Faced with such a superficial comment, I oppose the opinion of great speakers who exalted the particularities of the canary. Gabriel García Márquez, to cite just one example, has several references to Canarian Spanish in his works.

“There is no reason to think that Canaries speak badly or worse than other Spaniards”


Can we be calm?

There is no reason to think that we Canaries speak badly or worse than other Spaniards. Man, there are canaries that do it badly and canaries that do it well, but that is something that also happens with the Spanish of a person who resides in Valladolid or Madrid! This question does not depend on a dialect modality, but it is already a problem of the speakers … I do not feel that we Canaries speak badly. For me it is not a complex thing to be sixties, to aspire to the final s or to pronounce totizo, lengthen or gofio de millo.

Is being in charge of the Canarian Academy of Language an act of faith or a heroism?

It is an act of responsibility … A cultural responsibility and a linguistic responsibility and, of course, it is also a great honor, although it is still an extra work that must be added to the original obligations of each of the academics. There is nothing heroic here. On the contrary, this is an exercise in complicity with our heritage.

Do you have the feeling of being a kind of “guardian” of our linguistic heritage?

Guardian? The tongue does not need guardians. The Academy in the past wanted to be the guardian of the language and had that famous motto of “Clean, fix and give splendor”, but that idea has been hidden over the years. What I am trying to explain is that the tongue is capable of standing on its own, it does not need guardians. More than a guardian, I am a critical observer who has the privilege of taking advantage of the vantage point in which he is to see the language from another perspective.

Don’t you miss a bigger job in the educational base?

The first thing that should be asked is whether the training of Primary and Secondary teachers is ideal. I would dare to say, because I know the educational reality well, that the teachers’ knowledge could be improved. A teacher cannot solve all his linguistic training with a subject of six credits throughout the career. That should be reinforced a lot more.

Do you understand that it bothers that the term canariety is not in the dictionary of the RAE?

The fact that a word does not appear in the dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy does not mean that it does not exist. If they have not yet put it, they will do so, but if they did not, that does not constitute an obstacle so that that word cannot be used.

Well, that word what is said “ugly” is not: canariety.

I like it and the Canarian Academy of Language has been using it since its inception, that is, it is not a neologism because it is written in our statutes … Of the hundreds of Canarianisms that there are, the Royal Spanish Academy has included very few and, furthermore, many of those he has accepted are poorly defined or localized.


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